3 Day in Prague (in Pictures)
We got back yesterday afternoon, but I was so tired, I slept from 7pm until 7am this morning.
Here are some highlights from our visit to Prague.
Pictures of Budapest to come . . . .
Budapest is nice too.
In a post-communist sort of way.
I can't figure out how to use this international keyboard. There is a fellow in this Internet cafe who is watching porn, and it is making Brian and me very uncomfortable. More when we get back.
Prague is beautiful.
But the food selection for vegetarians is just awful. Everything is meat, meat, meat. Not much in the way of vegetables. Yesterday, I had fried bread for lunch and a baked pretzel-thing with sugar on it for dinner. I feel kind of gross.
Last night, we stumbled onto some kind of rock concert in a park near our hotel. I imagine it might have been the equivalent to a Lovin' Spoonful and Grass Roots revival. The fellows on stage seemed not-too-young, and, though half of the audience was collegiate-looking, the other half I would put in the 50-70 range. The older crowd members seemed to be having way more fun than the young people, dancing and twirling each other, screaming lyrics with abandon. It was fun to watch.
Beer is very cheap here, maybe the equivalent of a $1.50 for a large mug. But the food is a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. Maybe we're getting taken for a ride, because we are only eating in places which have English translations on their menu. But this is because we cannot read Czech. So my plate of fried bread set us back about $6, and the wilty caprese salad we shared earlier was $12.
One of the features that makes Prague so incredibly picturesque is its hilly, cobblestone streets. What is easy on the eyes may be taxing on the ankles.
The weather has been absolutely gorgeous. I wish I did not feel like a hobbling cripple as I walked through the colorful, narrow, uneven streets.
There are many places which advertise their "Internet Cafe" capabilities. But they seem often to have one elderly computer sitting in the back of the room, looking sad and neglected.
This is my brief update. Maybe I will find a computer in Budapest.
I called the tour company again yesterday.
The woman I spoke with said the rioting in Budapest had been limited to an area which was not that close to where we would be staying.
I said, "So, there are going to be whole sections of Budapest we're not going to be able to visit while we're there?"
"You can go there during the day," she said. "I heard that they were only rioting at night. Probably because they work during the day."
So the trip is still on. We are leaving around 1 PM for the airport. Brian and I still haven't started packing. We have to do a laundry. He wants to get a hair cut, too.
We will be back next Friday.
There is unrest in Budapest.
There are the dragons you can think up in your wildest fevered dreams, and there are the dragons that are outside the bounds of your imagination.
I called the tour company. They say that their Budapest counterparts still think it's safe to travel. But if they should change their minds, then the entire tour package will be cancelled.
I begged them to just let us hang out in Prague for 6 days. The woman on the phone said scornfully, "We have contracts!"
I have no idea what this means, other than No.
Traveling to Budapest during the worst social unrest since 1956 makes me a bit nervous. However, I have been so looking forward to this trip, the thought of having to stay here is far worse.
Do you know what's not relaxing?
Preparing for being away from work for a week. I'm sure it's almost as fun as coming back to a pile of work that has been neglected for a week.
Friend Julian Voloj tipped me off to a site where one can watch a whole bunch of 80s videos. 1500videos.com. I'm sure you already knew it, because you always know everything, and I am always the last person in the world to discover these kinds of things.
In my journey through the site, I had a chance to relive some of my past, only to discover that the video for Barbara Streisand's Woman in Love may possibly be the worse video ever thrown together.
Brian and I were talking about when we first discovered the Internet.
We can't quite remember. I think I was in elementary school when my mother showed me that we could used our Franklin computer to magically connect to the Broward County Public Library System and look through its card catalog . . . ELECTRONICALLY.
Since I didn't much like the Broward County Public Library, I wasn't so amused. Also, I had seen War Games, and this fell far short of Global Thermo-Nuclear War.
I didn't get my first email address until my freshman year of college. That was the fall of 1995. I was told that everyone was getting them, so I might as well get one too. And if I didn't move fast enough, someone might take a name I wanted. Then it would be gone forever. So I went to the Computer Science building and filled out three sheets of paperwork in order to get what was called a "grove" account, which was a step up from a "vax" account. I was WNDRWMN@GROVE.UFL.EDU.
The interface was entirely DOS. I do not think I sent, nor did I receive many emails my first year of college. Though I did use their nascent instant messaging service, "Internet Chat Relay" (or IRC). It was really, really slow, but totally awesome, because you could see the other person's words as he or she typed them in letter for letter.
It was of limited usefulness, because I was usually IRC-ing with someone several rooms down from me in the dorms. And because the program was so slow, I would often just give up and walk over to the other person's dorm room.
I still don't remember doing much except for emailing up until my junior year, when I allofasudden have memories of doing a whole bunch of online research. I have absolutely no recollection of the first website I ever visited.
Brian said he couldn't remember the first website he had visited either. He said the first he remembered hearing about the Internet was in an article in Time magazine. That was during his freshman year of college (a year before mine). Then he starting seeing blurbs in Newsweek recommending readers to "point [their] browsers to" some web address or other, an alphanumeric jumble that always began with http://.
I said, "Did you ever visit any of the URLs?"
"No," Brian said.
I asked why not. He said, "I had no idea how to. I didn't know where to type in the address."
"Ah! I remember that too. People telling you to visit a website. But I had no idea where to go on my computer to type the letters in." All I knew was my DOS-based email, my IRC, and my word processing program. Also, I had an Encarta Encyclopedia CD ROM and my electronic game of solitaire. Those were fun, but not really fun.
My memory is fuzzy for quite some time, until grad school, when I was working as an AV tech for the College of Humanities and one of my nerdy little assistants told me I should get my own website, that it was the way of the future, and that everyone was doing it. I began with a free space off of a site called homestead.com. I had that until they told me they would charge me. This was right around when I graduated, so as a present, Brian bought me my own domain name and web hosting.
I was going to become technologically savvy. I was going to teach myself HTML and break into the very lucrative tech market. That was in August of 2001. I am forever thinking that I am bording the bandwagon early, but when I actually try to get on, it's already crowded inside.
A wise man recently told me about the dragon.
He said that in Chinese culture, there is almost no creature more feared than the dragon. But, he said, There is one thing more fearful than the dragon. It is . . . This. He waved his hand in the air at nothing. You see, he said, More scary than the normal dragon is this, the invisible dragon. Because you cannot see it, you never know where it is or what it is doing.
I live my life in fear of invisible dragons.
Back in April, Brian and I made arrangements to go on vacation at the end of September. It was a million years away, so we didn't think about it and didn't worry about any preparations apart from paying the airfare and hotel fees. Three days in Prague and three days in Budapest. A day on either end for travel.
Then we mostly forgot about it. Allofasudden, we've realized that we will be leaving on our trip this coming Friday. This filled Brian with glee. But it filled me with dread. I felt entirely unprepared.
We have dug up our passports. We have found the plane tickets and itinerary. We located our little belly bags used to keep gypsies and such from stealing your wallet. We purchased tour books (but haven't quite gotten around to reading them yet). I even bought some travel-sized toiletries.
But I'm still worried.
"What are you worried about?" Brian said.
"I don't know."
"Are you worrying just for the sake of worrying? An exercise in worrying?"
It was only after the wise man told me that story that I realized I was worried about the invisible dragon, about all the bad things that might happen, but I just haven't thought of yet.
My father used to ask me if I were saving up all my worries in the worry bank, waiting to cash them in if something bad actually happened. He used to say this years ago. But, I am still at it, still worrying. For the world of problems that might be. Worrying like some people get vaccines, my own personal voodoo to keep away the Evil Eye. If I think up all the horrible things that might occur, I can plan for them, and then they probably won't happen. Like leaving the house with a cumbersome umbrella.
But it's worse. It's Christ-like. I am worrying as a sacrifice to the Gods, so that I might actually be spared the real trauma. I will suffer now, in advance, for all the world, so that I don't have to suffer when the bad things actually happen. Because they won't happen to me. Because I already did my worrying in advance.
It's so sick, but I can't stop myself. The only thing I can do is try to not think about the trip. To forget that such a thing as the dragon even exists. So I continue not to read the tour books we bought. I continue to do no research for our impending trip. I am a ridiculous person. I bet there is medication for this.
I'm making "We've Moved" cards.
I've finally got around to it. I purchased a tripod and a bunch of Epson matte heavy weight paper. I made Brian dress up and sit for a photo session. I photoshopped the images. Then I began printing them out.
Today, borrowed the paper cutter at work. On the subway ride home, I showed Brian 40 some-odd sheets of cut change of address cards.
And that's when I saw it.
I had spelled my own name wrong.
Brian said, "We can still use them. Just make a little carrot and write in the 'r'."
I had read and reread the text on the cards. And still, I missed the misspelling of my own last name.
Two years ago, I misspelled "transit" on our holiday card.
I am the worst speller ever. My mother used to say, "You could learn to spell better if it was something that really mattered to you. Spelling just doesn't matter to you enough."
I will use the same defense now as I used back then. I am missing a spelling enzyme.
Still, I am ashamed.
If you would like a change of address card from Brian Geller and Deb Schwatz, please email me. Otherwise, you will get one with my name spelled correctly. Or maybe you won't get one at all.
Do you remember when I worked in at a September 11th photo gallery?
That was before I worked at a Holocaust Museum.
The gang from Here Is New York had its five year reunion last night. We met up in Brooklyn at Juan and Matt's wonderful roof deck. Of course, I forgot my camera.
But Juan had his.
So here are a couple of pictures from September 11, 2006. Good times!
Politician, yes. But still my mother.
During the campaign, I went to my mother's office to make phone calls reminding people to vote on election day. A number of other people there working on my mother's campaign as well. At one point, my mother walked up and dropped a piece of her opponent's literature on the desk in front of me. Among other things, it contained a picture of the opponent with his family. My mother pointed to the son and said, "Look familiar?"
Now I must go on a tangent. . . .
The son in the photo was Chris, my physical therapy crush from 11th grade. Of course, I had known already that his father was running against my mother, but I had not seen him (or a picture of him) in 12 years. Maybe I'm getting old and dotty, but I thought he looked about the same.
My mother said, "Remember Chris?" and I said, "Yes." She then addressed another campaign worker sitting beside me. "Debbie tore her ACL and was in physical therapy with Arthur's son. How do you like that? Debbie had a crush on Arthur's son."
"What? I can't tell a story?"
Another campaign worker perked up. She asked what we were talking about.
"Debbie used to have a crush on Arthur's son. They both tore their ACLs and were in physical therapy together."
My mother's campaign manager heard the noise and came into the room. "What's going on?" he said.
My mother picked up the literature and handed it to the campaign manager. "See. Debbie used to be in physical therapy with Arthur's son. She had really taken a shine to him."
"Mom!" This was killing me. Like someone reading an old diary of mine out loud. "Can't you just tell the story about how I peed on myself in kindergarten?"
"You know," my mother said, "I saw him back in May. I went up to him and said 'You know my daughter, Debbie. You were in physical therapy together,' and he said, 'Yes, of course I remember her,' and I said, 'You know, she talked about you all the time. She really liked you a lot,' and he said, 'I liked her a lot too.' See."
"Did you tell him I had a crush on him?"
"He said he liked you too."
"Is that why he ignored me?" I said. "He was totally out of my league. He was an athlete. I was so horribly dorky. I can't believe you told him I had a crush on him."
"He said you both liked each other very much."
"He was just being nice. Oh, god. I can't believe you told him I had a crush on him. I'm going to have to see him tomorrow at the picnic. This is so horribly embarrassing."
"Why is it embarrassing?" my mother said. "It's a cute story. Anyway, he's 30 and he still isn't married. But he said he'd like to be."
"What are you suggesting? That he never got married because he's still in love with me? He hardly knew I existed. What exactly are you suggesting?"
The other campaign workers looked up from their phone calls.
"I don't know," my mother said. She looked hurt that I was yelling at her. "Maybe he's gay."
I saw Chris at the picnic and he looked basically the same as he had 12 years earlier. Or maybe my memory of him has aged in time. He did not seem gay. Nor did he seem to have been waiting around for me. We chatted for a bit, and I tried to keep the conversation light. But in my soul, I felt thoroughly exposed. I was never so happy to live in far away New York City.
Here are some shots of us watching for the results at the Election Eve Thank You Party.
smear ads against my mother. They are pretty bizarre, no?
I'm in SoFlo, working for my mother's campaign.
I will not have much time to update before Wednesday. Feel free to send me personal campaign stories.
In the meantime, you can take at peek at the smear campaign ads that my mother's opponent has sent out. I think they were quite humorous.
Mark, long-time friend of DebCentral, wrote:
I once ran for student office too. It was the year we moved, from one Midwestern suburb to another, better-off one. I made a big splash the first two days of school, winning a math contest, a spelling bee, and even catching a game-winning touchdown pass (that was SOOO out of character for me). I got nominated for class president even though I was a totally new kid.
The candidates had to give a speech. I asked my mother for advice on mine. She suggested that I point out that I was well-qualified because as a new kid I could offer a fresh point of view, and also because I was so smart that I was two years ahead in school and so I was in the seventh grade at age 10.
I followed her advice.
To the best of my recollection, none of my classmates voluntarily spoke to me for the entire rest of that school year.
This was what you might call a formative experience.
Fortunately I recovered, to an extent.
Some additional things:
High school friend and Chicago resident Molly Hale also donated to my mother's campaign. Thank you, Molly. You are so fab! I owe you another six pack. One filled with fermented love.
Brian wanted me to tell the story about my fourth grade campaign. Let's look at that picture again. Did I mention that those pants were reversible?
For the campaign, my mother bought me markers and three pieces of poster board. I had my two friends over to help me make campaign posters.
I thought Michele was very cool. She dressed in the best over-sized t-shirts and matching leggings and her mother let her have mayonnaise and lettuce sandwiches for lunch, which is what I wanted to eat for lunch, but my mother insisted that my sandwiches have protein. I really wanted her to be my best friend. But she already had a best friend, Paula. So I had to settle for being second-best friend.
Marcy was not as cool. She dressed okay, but not as well as Michele. Her mother made her salads with no dressing for lunch, but she claimed to like it. She did not already have a best friend. So I was her best friend. Because I did not already have a best friend either.
Michele made a poster with hearts and flowers. It was very pretty, and I spent the afternoon praising her work and trying to make my poster look like hers. I mostly ignored Marcy. At the end of our poster-making session, I again exalted Michele's artistry. Then I looked over at what Marcy was working on. Marcy's poster featured a large unskillfully drawn spider with the words:
My eyes grew hot in their sockets. "Spin the web? What the hell is that supposed to mean!?!"
Marcy looked up, startled. "It was the only thing that rhymed."
"A campaign slogan doesn't have to rhyme. That doesn't make any sense. You ruined one of my posters."
Marcy became indignant at my treatment towards her and her work. I called my mother over to show her how she was going to have to buy me a new piece of poster board because Marcy ruined hers. My mother, instead of taking my side in the matter, was horrified by the way I was treating my guest. She made me apologize to Marcy, called an end to the play date, and commanded that I hang the hateful poster at school as punishment for mistreating a friend.
It galled me, but I did it.
As I mentioned before, I lost the election. But it probably had nothing to do with Marcy's dumb poster. It was probably because I dressed worse than even Marcy, but aspired to be even more popular than Michele.
Later that year. Michele and Paula had an argument. Michele called me on the phone to say that Paula was no longer her best friend, and did I want to be her best friend now. I was in heaven. I later called Marcy to tell her that Michele had asked me to be her new best friend, so I would be dumping her.
I was such a shit.
Last I heard, Michele was living in Texas and working as an aerospace engineer. Marcy was married, working in human resources, and living in Brooklyn Heights. I have not seen either of them for almost a decade.
Me? I'm living in Park Slope. I'm married to a swell guy with whom I pick fights way too often. I work in a lower management at a Holocaust museum in the city. I've published exactly one short story. And I have my own website, which I built and maintain myself. I suppose you could say that I do in fact spin the web.
I'm sorry, Marcy, where ever you are.